The Newcastle Jets have started 2013 the same way they ended 2012 – with a loss at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
Five days after going down to Melbourne Victory 3-2 at the venue, the Jets opened the new year with a 2-1 defeat to the Melbourne Heart.
Golgol Mebrahtu’s opening goal was cancelled out by a penalty to Ryan Griffiths in the 18th minute.
But a Josip Tadic spot kick in the 25th minute after contentious penalty against Jets keeper Mark Birighitti was enough to secure the Heart three points and move them off the bottom of the ladder.
The loss was the Jets’ fourth in the past five games – the other result being a 2-1 win over Sydney FC on December 22 – and they are now in danger of losing touch with the top six.
To compound matters, Scott Neville aggravated a hamstring injury late in the match and is almost certain to miss the match against high-flyers Adelaide United at home on Saturday.
Golgol Mebrahtu put the Heart ahead in the 5th minute when he slid a shot through the legs of Mark Birighitti after the Jets had turned over possession passing out from the back.
The keepers were at fault for both penalties.
Andrew Redmayne, making his starting debut for the Heart, was late coming out and collected Ryan Griffiths, who had run on to a nicely waited through ball from Emile Heskey.
Griffiths dusted himself off and sent Redmayne the wrong way to equalise.
The Heart had the better of the chances and regained the lead in the 26th minute when Birighitti grabbed at the foot of Jonatan Germano as the Argentinian was about to shoot.
Moments earlier, Birighitti had spilt the ball in a collision with Heart defender Patrick Gerhardt.
Jets coach Gary van Egmond was furious at the decision and remonstrated with referee Kris Beath at half-time.
The Jets dominated possession against a tiring Melbourne in the second half.
Emile Heskey, whose good friend Sir Viv Richards had addressed the Jets before the game, was handful in the second half but was unable to grab and equaliser.